#CryptoASIA — Lessons learned from Hong Kong Asian Financial Forum & Singapore’s MAS

Aside from reinforcing my perception that Asia is driving global innovation in the Blockchain/Crypto space — this article aims to share what I learned from my experience in the Asian Financial Forum — AFF Hong Kong, the largest financial conference in Asia and from my meetings with Lawyers and the Monetary Association of Singapore — MAS.

First, let me thank the Hong Kong Trade Development Council for inviting me to such an “eye-opening” event. Aside from meeting heads of state from China, EU, and other Asian nations, as well as, mingling with C-Level executives from the major global financial institutions the event is an illustration of the power and relevancy of Asia in our global financial market.

As an advocate for everything Blockchain and Crypto related, I was able to get a better understanding of how Asian and other global regulators are looking at Cryptocurrencies, such as Bitcoin, ETH, and many Alt-coins, and how are they perceiving risks versus benefits of having a digitized economy.

It was also promising to see that European regulators are organizing themselves and building dedicated teams to help innovative Fintech/Blockchain companies navigate current regulatory systems. In addition, EU is developing regulatory sandboxes to accommodate the wave of innovation that is coming to “wash” international financial markets.

As the new term #RegTech rises to define this new industry of regulatory environment for Fintech, new technologies and solutions are disrupting the way financial institutions are complying with global standards such as KYC, AML, and SWIFT, among others, making the entire industry more streamlined with the help of Blockchain technology. As an example; every banker that I spoke with wanted to talk about Ripple (XRP).

I was also happily surprised that the general understanding among government officials across Eurasia is that DLTs are seen as a major advent in decreasing costs for both government and financial institutions. It seems to me that the American regulators should “wake-up and smell the coffee” as opposed to staggering innovations with heavy and unnecessary bureaucracy. As other nations “leap-frog” into the adoption of this new technology, which can easily be the backbone of global financial transactions, the USA remains still! While international regulators want to make sure that Blockchain promotes confidence and trust, it seems that US regulators are afraid of losing the global monetary power of the Dollar, and consequently are holding the entire US Blockchain industry behind.

As an example of the foreign adoption of the Blockchain technology, the Central Bank of Russia sees Mother Russia’s more than 100% mobile penetration as a sign that central banks need to adapt to this new wave of transacting funds across the Internet. In the Blockchain world, financial transactions are no longer limited by geographical or political boundaries! Thus, smart & tech-savvy politicians, that can understand and capitalize on the technology, will be able to position their respective countries as the leading monetary nations of the future.

From what I heard and saw in the various panels, what worries global official, is how to effectively implement cross-border regulations, given that technology moves faster then regulators can create barriers!

With that in mind, I had a very interesting conversation with Mr. Shu-pui Li, Executive Director of the Hong Kong Monetary ­Authority who told me about their collaborative approach with innovative Fintech Firms to foster innovation in Hong Kong and further develop the “Belt and Road” trade initiative in order to strengthen Hong Kong’s ­international ­financial status.

Although several factors including exponential growth in the speed and volume of transactions, continuous threats of cyber attacks and extreme dependence of large financial firms on a few technology providers, seems to keep government officials awake at night, innovation is for sure a key point in the agenda of the Hong Kong Government.

Nevertheless, across the entire event, I heard international government officials complain about legal uncertainty and the challenges of recruiting and developing teams of regulators that understand Blockchain technology! However, that was not the case of the Invest Hong Kong team, which not only showed to be very knowledgeable about the space but also very welcoming of foreign direct investment. No wonder why InvestHK is rated the #1 FDI agency in the world!

After experiencing the vibrant Blockchain/Crypto ecosystem of Hong Kong, which made me even more “Bullish” about the whole industry, I went to Singapore to meet with the Monetary Authority of Singapore — MAS. My goal was to better understand the potential and flexibility of MAS’s new regulatory sandbox, which allows innovative Blockchain companies to fundraise and operate in Singapore .

The MAS officials were more than welcoming and very prone innovation! It was refreshing to hear that such a financial-services driven nation was so forward-thinking and welcoming of the disruptive Blockchain technology.

Summarizing, after attending the Asian Financial Forum and meeting with regulators in Hong Kong and Singapore I am more than ever, certain that the traditional world of money is gone forever and regulators seem to understand that! Consequently, I think that 2018 will be the year that the market gets regulated and that security ICOs take the limelight and disrupt the industry!

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Alex Nascimento

Co-founder UCLA BLOCKCHAIN LAB & BLOCKCHAIN @ UCLA — Security Token Offering & Blockchain Faculty